When I was in the eighth grade, I told my mom and dad that “basically” I knew the basics of life. I knew how to read, write, do math, find things in a library, talk, clean up for myself, some basic cooking skills and the life skill of dialogue and discussion.
You know, I was right. Everything that I have learned since the eighth grade has been a deeper and wider explanation of what I have learned. The problem is that the lessons of life get much more painful each time you have to learn…or relearn… one of them.
As I look back over my life, I also realize that the best friends I ever had in many ways were my friends from the neighborhood and school in the eighth grade. My friends at this time knew me. Now, certainly this will be true the rest of my life…but I mean “knew me” in a much more basic way.
They knew the color of my house, the mess of my bedroom, the names of all my siblings, what my dad did and the chores I was expected to do. They understood my family’s Christmas traditions and what we did on Thanksgiving because they usually spent some time with me on those days.
They knew my teachers and my imitations of my teachers. They attended my church, St. Veronica’s, and we played before and after Mass. They traveled with me to games and functions. We played together, we prayed together. When Barney Postman died, my neighborhood friends cried hard… he was all of our friends.
From the day of eighth grade graduation, you will find that these kinds of friends slowly leave your life. The friends that stayed over night for a sleepover in the sixth grade will drift off to other schools, other activities, and other places. It is funny, though, years from now, you will bump into each other either on purpose or by coincidence and you will instantly find someone who knows your heart. Your goals, your figure and your hair may change, but not the inner person. You will see each other as eighth graders again.
When you go to a school, your friends tend to be from that school. When you do an activity, your friends tend to be doing the same things. Single people hang with other singles, marrieds with marrieds, married with children with married with children.
True friends will always help you move from one apartment to another. True friends show up to your wedding and help clean up. True friends expand your life. Whenever you stop and look at the last few weeks or years and wonder what happened to the old gang, stop and look at yourself and the one who hang around the most. A sign that a relationship is failing is when your life narrows and narrows down to just you and them. A good sign is expansion.
When you wake up one day with new hobbies, new friends, new knowledge, and a wider vision of this great world, it is a sure sign that you have chosen wisely in your relationships.